Spotlight: Grow Dat Youth FarmTo nurture one’s soul is to nurture diversity and leadership and encourage personal growth. It also helps if the growing process involves some quality food along the way! At Grow Dat, people of diverse backgrounds come together to create a sustainable food system while also sustaining an environment of inspiration and community. Grow Dat is located on a seven-acre site right in our own City Park. Each year they grow an average of 25,000 pounds of fresh produce, focusing on chemical-free farming methods to ensure more natural results and longevity for the future of food. Thirty percent of their crops are distributed to low-income residents with little to no access to fresh quality food through the Shared Harvest program. Each year approximately 70 kids, from nine partner schools and programs, are given the opportunity to be a part of Grow Dat’s Leadership Programs where they learn skills for sustainable farming, food justice, and community leadership. By harvesting the skills for open communication, these future leaders engage in a practice that provides a supportive foundational effort for growth. “We work closely with school liaisons to be supportive of young people in a holistic way.” says Clara Lyle, the Social Enterprise Manager for Grow Dat. To make this program more accessible for kids, Grow Dat provides transportation from the schools, “Because transportation is one of the most easily overcome barriers to get kids to the farm and to be employed.” says Lyle. While the kids spend a good amount of time on the two-acre farm learning about sustainable agriculture and the system of fresh food production as a whole, they also spend an equal amount of time participating in skill-building exercises and planned field trips to partner organizations. Unique, a 2013 graduate, spoke to the personal impact of the program, “Sometimes people need a place where they can be themselves without their peers. They need a place where they can go and clear their mind from all the challenges of the world and figure out who they really are. That is Grow Dat.” Jake Collazo is an intern with nola family magazine. Photo by Claire Bangser.